I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution this past spring, and one of the things that surprised me the most—more than what passes for a vegetable in school cafeterias—was that so many of the elementary school children didn't know how to use a knife and fork.
Now that it's summer, a time when, perhaps, your kids are eating more meals at home than they would be if they were in school, I challenge you to set the table—for at least one meal a day—with a knife and fork.
My girls have been using knives and forks since the beginning of kindergarten. (Bunny's preschool actually encouraged kids to use knives, but we didn't consistently start using them at home until kindergarten.) Four- and five-year-old can use knives properly if you teach them. In fact, I find that they love to cut their own food. I put slices of steak or chicken or veggie chunks on their plates, and away they go!
It takes a a couple of tries to teach kids how to firmly spear the item to be cut by holding a fork in their left hand, then to cut a bite-sized piece with their right. (My kids are right-handed.) When Wallie started using a knife she found it easier to spear with right and cut with the left, but eventually, she switched over. And a note: holding the fork with your fist is fine when you are four or five, but not as an adult! Once your child gets comfortable with cutting, teach them how to hold the fork "backwards" with their pointer finger on the back of the fork, just above the tines. Like this:
Another use for the knife is to help kids scoot rice or grains onto their forks or spoons rather than use their fingers. And it's fun to show them how they can use their knife to "paste" peas onto a forkful of mashed (sweet) potatoes (British-style.) Knives really do come in handy!
We use the cutlery set pictured above to start (from IKEA) because they are perfect for little hands and the knife has a slightly serrated edge so it actually cuts.
Need a project this summer? Teach your kids to use a knife and fork!